|by Thom Fowler
I looked for something interesting and I found a city called Los Angeles. My love affair with the city is still at the cuddly, touchy phase. I can’t keep my hands off her. When she isn’t there, I still feel her holding me like a mother bird, pushing her children out of the nest so they’ll fly. You know she wants your wings to spread and she holds you in her love. And if you hit the ground, its her love that sustains that last awful breath before a swifter land-bound creature has lunch.
I’m sure there is some romance in that. Cruel Kali – Divine Mistress.
“And you wanted to you dance, so I asked you to dance” – Say a Prayer, Duran Duran.
You know, honey, I gotta push you out of the nest. So please fly, but don’t think I won’t cry when you die.
I’ll tell you things you’ll understand and I’ll keep holding your hand.
“Baby, we can rock it all night.”
That’s about the state of my head in this giddy, temperature controlled office building of a town. I must be living three lives. I once wrote, “I’m too busy living to write it all down.” I have no idea where I find time to string together these tiny narratives that help me digest the tempest of my own life. Non-linear modes of expression are a nice escape valve. Who’s the heroine? What’s the plot?
I dunno, its just the jasmine blooming in the corners of a dusty, deserted parking lot surrounded by mangled chain link and littered with the detritus of the drifters that have camped there.
Reducing everything to “everything is everything” is no good. I need to have a discrete, separable product called “story” with identifiable parts, a beginning, a middle and end, creating meaning so you can have a meaningful interaction in a meaning making process.
Face it, there’s no money in anything worthwhile. Celebrity gossip? That’s just embarrassing, but I do it. It’s find of fun once you turn it into a game but fly below the radar and the culture brokers call you “unprofessional”, “amateur”.
So should writers like me roll over and die because we have a tenuous relationship to commercial media? Hell no. You have to speak your peace to the world. There’s a whole new breed of pundit out there, with ways of getting an audience that will never sell ad space. I don’t even know how to sell you my million plus readers. Where does the fashion spread go? (not that there isn’t room for a discourse about Fashion as Ideology in what is essentially a Marxist critical framework, but damn baby, if there isn’t something to looking good, feeling good, creative self-expression and the role of designers as pleasure engineers as a necessary and vital part of life … and any lifestyle publication worth its salt.)
I’ve read two great articles recently. One about the decline of Rolling Stone and another about the Decline of Maxim. I’m not shedding a tear. The new editor at Rolling Stone is bringing a Maxim-like Lad Rag sensibility to a magazine once noted for creating Rock Journalism and somehow relating the music we listen to, to who we are and how we live our lives. That IS what it’s about, isn’t it?
I mean, does anyone really know what “good” is anymore. Roger Ebert and Robert Redford have both publicly chimed in recently about the phrase “non-commercial art”. Do box office receipts say anything about quality or artistry? So where are our priorities as a society, as a culture? Do we reward the artist or the advertising budget? The relationship between money and power has skewed public discourse so that we not only embrace the simulation, we crave it.
And now, the secret of Terry Gilliam’s Brazil enduring appeal to those in the know… The scene in the restaurant where he is fed a pile of dyed gruel but shown a picture of a gourmet meal. The sign is more important then the thing signified. “Yes, but, the man behind the orange curtain …” So much of 50’s and 60’s era situational comedy revolved around cognitive dissonance and “mental illness”, where people saw the truth but were forced to accept the lie, given tranquilizers, shown the door to the company shrink, poured another drink. I mean, George Orwell had been published by this time, so what were American’s reading .. or NOT reading. I know everyone loves to call America anti-intellectual and I don’t think everything you read and write has to be academic discourse by any stretch of the imagination.
But you know, without all that Big Blue conformity and the ruling patriarchal heterosexist narratives, we’d never have drag queens. And honey, what a sad world it would be then.
I love Dada, Situationism, Surrealism, the Absurd. It manifests as pabulum but it draws out of deep deep wells of wisdom. Deconstructing the transcendent sucks the magic right out of it. Which is why I don’t like writing about art. I just want to stick stuff in front of you and say, “here, experience this”.
And then, in another window, people see me as Rod Serling, capturing that experience for yet another audience altogether. Although, I did go the academic route so that I could, if need be, show you all the gears, how they were made, how they were put together, the principals of design and engineering and all the possible applications of things like “the lever”. Except my playground is much more evanescent, psychospiritual, sociopolitical. Where mind meets matter and the debate over art and life, chicken and eggs, loses its atomic structure and becomes pure mystery.
Where are the critics and the curators of our culture pounding out a magazine that meant as much as The New Yorker when it first hit Manhattan? We’ve all got websites and sit around bemoaning the pathetic state of media affairs and wondering how any of those people got their jobs. And then laughing at ourselves for being so bitter and apathetic.
Here comes the pitch. Three strikes and you’re out! Not that life is any better for those writers unfortunate enough to be tagged as “midlist”. They don’t know their audience, they say. We just publish this stuff because, it sells.
I believe in publishing. I believe in the press and I am acutely aware of the economic reality that allows a pampered, intellectual, split personality fringe/pop fiend like me to squeeze out a living by merely commenting. Writers like me are secular priests and priestesses, drawing out the blood and readying it for transfusion into people who may barely have time to leisurely flip through their favorite magazine, newspaper or journal. Do “normal” people read journals?
And that’s why I love the web. The captive audience with a web browser chained to their dreary day jobs now have a wealth of mind-candy to un-numb themselves with. Even your boss is sticking it to the man. Whoever “the man” is anymore. I like to think of him as one of the seven white guys who control all the money in the world, even though I know its not true. Commodity fetishism, late capitalism and global marketplaces are the actual MAN that even THE man cowers under.
But what does knowing that do to any of us or do to this weeks episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer?
The baby’s head is crowning, who is going to be the midwife?
Missah, I don’t know nuthin’ bout birthin’ no babies.
Smile and nod. Smile and nod.
While humans are so cleverly attempting to manipulate markets, shift capital, seize power and protect not only assets but ideology, we are all slaves to the machine, in servitude of a mathematical abstraction called “money” – a mere idea and one that never grew wheat or gave birth.
Its like Money is God in a very literal sense. God as a theoretical Deus Ex Machina to whom we owe allegiance and through proper obedience will bestow upon his worshipful followers life sustaining rewards.
A group in LA has started an experimental barter economy where the currency is service dollars in a very rational, lucid response to failing markets. A pile of plastic crap from Taiwan is not going to feed your children. Money is the intermediary priest in an episcopate of desire and we’ve transferred our real physical and spiritual needs into a decadent and corrupt dance with smoke and mirrors. We are the ghosts of Disney’s Haunted Mansion. An interesting illusion.
John Maynard Keynes once revolutionized the way we look at a market economy, when markets were discrete entities. The WWII generation so graciously donated that remarkable infrastructure to us and we are now rethinking the puzzle from the other side of the iron curtain of history that was the Second World War dividing the old world from the new. I don’t mean George Bush Sr.’s New World Order … I mean the birth of the cultural creative, the unprecedented level of instant, simultaneous, global communication. The breakdown of historical dichotomies and the integration of left/right brain, east/west thinking, nature/science dialectic into something that transcends the limitations of the thesis/antithesis (God Bless You, Nietzsche. Damn You, Freud. And if Jung wasn’t spiritual and metaphysical he may have been accepted as rational and scientific and our psychological framework may have been less a word game and more a transformative system)
Heaven/Earth, Day/Night, Heads/Tails.
It really is the apocalypse, but not the one so carefully crafted over a thousand years of social manipulation. It is a new awareness, a growth spurt stretching the skin around our knees. And we are all supposed to go around, letting our mouths be taped shut, keeping our perspectives firmly entrenched in the architecture of the bizarre and unstable world created by our forebears, admirably in the name of “Truth.” Respectably in the name of “God.”
For less flexible thinkers, this is the path towards madness. Paradox and Contradiction are not friends of the fundamentalist, the bigot, the paranoid. They are lovers of the artist, the poet. Classically, it’s the “conflict” between Apollo and Dionysus. Rational planning and hierarchal authoritarianism as opposed to creative anarchy and ecstasy. We aren’t sacrificing humans anymore so nobody needs to worry about free-thinking, sex-loving people tearing their sons limb from limb.
The Renaissance was a dangerous time Europe. We are smack dab in the middle of a global renaissance. A twilight zone between dynasties. The blurred edge of the end of an empire and hopefully we won’t plunge headfirst into a new Dark Age.
Dave Itzkoff of the NYPress (Vol. 15, Iss. 23) who wrote the article about Maxim is looking forward to that new “intelligent” men’s magazine. Don’t wait for permission, call yourself editor-in-chief, get Quark express and sign me up for issue number one. It’s not like we don’t know what we are doing. Aren’t plugged into the system. Don’t know how to get our words out there.
“Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose” – Janis Joplin
I can’t even finish this damn novel because I’m too busy dealing in novelties. It’ll all come in the shakedown though. So no worries.
“We’re the kids in America. Everybody listen to the music-go-round” – Kim Wilde.
Although, I prefer the cover version by the Winona Ryders. It’s a much creepier rebroadcast of the poignant hope of a devastated generation.
Celebrity Gossip has moved on. You can now find it every other Friday on www.moviepoopshoot.com : The Pop Culture Toilet. Along with celebrity features, interviews, news and a column I’m very excited to be debuting – Off The Radar – stories you won’t find in Rolling Stone about artists who are shaking up the world. Let’s see, what’s coming up? A trip to the Playboy Mansion, Shoe-lust, public snogging and a very private split of a very public couple.
Sometime early this week at the Poop Shoot there’s a revealing interview with Cassandra Peterson where she calls me the “illegitimate child of PeeWee Herman and Elvira” and discusses sex, motherhood, Phil Hartman, her new movie and the character that changed her life and gave new definition to an old Holiday. Read the stuff other editors won’t print about people you know and love. (I.E. I couldn’t sell the story to save my life so I’m giving it away to a publication that lets me do it my way.)
Thank you Bono. Thank you Madonna for being silent revolutionaries and thank you to the not silent ones. Nina Hagen, Divine, and the thousands of marvelous people I’ve had the pleasure and the privelege of joining, who are joining me now, on this journey that is always just beginning.
link directly to this feature at http://www.efilmcritic.com/feature.php?feature=595
originally posted: 07/07/02 13:07:22